Every year in November, more than half a million high school students across South Korea sit for the examination of their life—the infamous Suneung or CSAT (College Scholastic Ability Test). It’s a grueling eight-hour session of back-to-back exams where students are tested on Korean, English, mathematics, social studies, history and sciences. It’s the single most important test any Korean student ever takes in their life. How they perform that day determines which university the student goes to, which in turn affects their job prospects, their income, where they live and even their marriage.
It’s such a critical exam that authorities try to accommodate as much as possible to make the day easier for the students. For that single day, the exam becomes the priority of the entire nation.
Students take the annual College Scholastic Ability Test at a high school in Seoul. Photo credit: Ed Jones